You’re thirteen. You’re at the Super Bowl. And then… it happens. Your life becomes an instant meme.
Monday morning in home room at my school, more students were talking about Ryan McKenna than the Eagles’ victory. And we are a Philadelphia suburb.
Being the curious type, I went online and started looking up social media’s reactions to this teenager’s brush with JT’s stardom. I was horrified.
I’m not going to repeat any specific comments I read, but it makes me sick to think some people have no qualms criticizing Ryan’s actions during the halftime show. He was filming the concert. What happened was spontaneous. And it was live.
Why people feel the need to jump onto this bullying bandwagon of some boy is beyond me. These people need a lesson in empathy. How would THEY feel if they or their child were scrutinized the way Ryan has been judged? He didn’t do anything wrong. Why do they feel entitled to mock him as if he had no feelings?
Right now, he’s most likely still in shock. But eventually, he and his parent may start to take in all the cruel insinuations and false conclusions about the nature of this boy, and the content of his character.
All over a selfie.
If there’s anything good that can come of this sorry display, it can be a lesson in self esteem and resilience. This flash-in-the -pan moment of fame could either destroy or define his trajectory. If Ryan McKenna can rise above the taunts and hate, he’ll forever live an abundant life. And therein lies the blessing.
I have a #153Promise for you. When you have a moment with your children, talk to them about Ryan and the entire world’s reaction to his selfie. Then, relate it to your own family. How will your own kids respond when they are met with the negativity of others? If they are able to rise above and not give audience to the bullies, your children will remain confident and happy.
And to those who have felt the need to hope on that train of bullying, ask yourself, “what is going on inside my own heart that I feel the need to put someone else down and ruin their good fortune?”
And to Ryan’s family, I offer my most sincere support and kindness.
I had taken off a year from my blog to pursue other projects during a professional sabbatical during the 2016-2017 school calendar. That experience alone could be its own book. However, loooong story short, I very much miss my blogging about my 153Promise initiative, so I’m back!
I think I’ll begin catching you up by sharing with you all the articles I wrote for a local educational publication. They very graciously have given me permission to repost the content on 153Promise.
But before I do that, I feel the need to write something else that’s very current in the news. Stay tuned…
I’m going to make it MY #153Promise to write at least once a week.
I recently attended a fundraising event. It was a local teacher and coach from a neighboring district who told anecdotes from his past 20 years in the classroom and on the field. All ticket sales went to helping local charitable organizations.
Some of his stories were funny; some were heartfelt; some were heartbreaking. But the one that really stayed with me was the one I’ll refer to as, “The Boy with the Red Ink.” I asked him if I could share it on my blog, and he graciously granted permission.
Rick was a new teacher and was getting familiar with the start-of-the-year routines; one of them involved index cards. Before the teachers ever met the students personally, they would get an index card filled with information about each child. The general information was written in black ink, but the really important information was written in red. When presented with the stack of cards for their class, most teachers would first flip through them quickly, hoping to view a black sea of notes. The more red; the more difficult the path that lie head.
When Rick came across one card, he was startled to see a shock of red ink. He noted the name and went onto the rest of his duties of getting ready before his class arrived for the first day of school.
His first interaction with the Boy with the Red Ink and his family was on Back to School night. The student came into the classroom and began picking up items off shelves and leaving havoc in his wake. The father was no different, yet he was yelling at the boy to put everything back where he got it from.
A bit perturbed, Rick asked, “Can I help you?”
“I know you; you’ve got my son in your class.”
“Yes,” replied Rick, “and do you mind putting down my globe?”
That set the tone for the year. But Rick was determined to be a positive influence on the boy. He found reasons to praise the boy. One particular incidence involved an elaborate setup with the office secretary. The plan was for Rick to “lose” his set of keys, whereby the Boy with the Red Ink would save the day. Rick gave the keys to the secretary and instructed her to wait about an hour and then call him over the PA system that the keys had been recovered.
When he announced to his students that his keys were lost, the whole class went into emergency rescue mode, turning over piece of oak tag and workbook, reassuring him that everything would be okay. When the announcement came over the loudspeaker, the class cheered.
Then Rick very dramatically said, “Okay, who can I trust to do the very important job of going to the office to get my keys?”
Immediately, all hands shot up. But then, he added, “I really need to be able to trust this person.” All hands stayed up, with the exception of one hand that slowly retreated. Rick’s heart sank; his plan had backfired. So he improvised:
“Listen, some of you may have made mistakes in the past, but that’s okay. When you came into this class, you had a clean slate.” Kids look confused. “That means a fresh start. So think really hard… who can I trust to get my keys?”
The Boy with the Red Ink slowly brought his hand up with the rest of his classmates’. When Rick called on the boy, all the students — including the boy — looked shocked. But the boy got up and left the classroom.
When he returned five minutes later, Rick bent down, got his keys, smiled and whispered in the boy’s ear, “I knew I could trust you.”
From then on, The Boy with the Red Ink changed. Many times, students like this come around gradually. But with this boy, it was an immediate and dramatic shift from the negative to the positive
One time, Rick decided to call home with a good report. But that same father answered the phone and as soon as he heard it was the boy’s teacher, the dad began cursing and bellowing for the son, using his first, middle and last name. When Rick explained that he was making a happy phone call home, the conversation went flat. But that didn’t stop Rick from working with the boy to keep his self esteem up and continue to improve.
That was in third grade. Once in fourth and fifth grade, Rick’s power to influence the boy lessened.
Four or five years later, Rick was driving in his car and he saw the Boy with the Red Ink run across the street with a bunch of his middle school buddies. The boy called out to Rick, and he stopped his car to get out and talk to the boy. His buddies must have teased him because his demeanor changed by the time Rick approached him.
“Hey! How are you doing?” Rick asked.
“Fine,” the boy replied in a very nonchalant way.
He wanted to say something about the crowd he was running around with. He wanted to ask how his father was doing. How was school? But, sensing the boy’s embarrassment, Rick kept is short. “Well, it was really great seeing you,” was all he said.
“I gotta go.” That was the last thing Rick ever heard the boy say.
A few years later, word got back to Rick that the Boy with the Red Ink had wound up in jail. It broke his heart.
At this point, you may wonder why he told this story to an audience of fellow teachers. His point was not do discourage people from trying. Rather, to realize that sometimes, you can do your very best and wind up doing a great job; Rick did make a difference with the Boy with the Red Ink. But sometimes, it takes more than just one person.
Rick’s message was that if EVERYBODY takes that type of interest in people who desperately need it, maybe we can have a world with a little less red ink.
Of all the anecdotes Rick told that night, this story stuck with me the most.
Make it your #153Promise to keep the cap on the red pen.
-Perez did NOT sign a form excusing him from such treatment
-At no time did the school say paddle or jail for mom
-The son had hit another student, ran away from teachers, and spit.
-Perez has no medical records to support her claim that her son has extenuating circumstances leading to his absence.
My analysis? This means that her “excuse” that she had her son paddled to avoid jail (which would have been horrible enough!) is not even true. Therefore, we WILLINGLY let her son be hit by school officials… and she uploaded the video on her SM platform.
Now, she’s trying to milk her 15 seconds of fame by possibly seeking out a lawsuit.
I’ll keep checking back and update everyone about this parenting train wreck.
I’m trying to see the silver lining in this story… maybe this much-publicized news event will wake people up to the fact that corporal punishment — which includes spanking! — is NOT a good way to teach discipline to your child.
Make it your #153Promise to never hit — or let others hit (including partners) — your child.
I found this news story on one of my online forms today. It’s about a mother whose five year old son was paddled for spitting.
If I understand the convoluted logic, the woman had previously been arrested for truancy; the child had 18 unexcused absences and 20 tardiness citations. Therefore, in lieu of being suspended (resulting in missing more school and further truancy), the child was administered corporal punishment… which was then posted on social media.
The details vary from site to site, but the mother claims that the child has a condition (not specified) and that this was the only way to avoid getting arrested.
There are so many things wrong with this story, my head is spinning. But I’ll limit myself to my top three:
3. Corporal punishment is NOT effective. Even if a child does not repeat the offense, it’s not because they learned why what they did was wrong. They just learn fear and the lesson that physical violence is a good way to solve problems. The Jasper County Primary School in Covington, Georgia should know better.
2. It’s the mother’s fault it came to this. I realize I may not know the whole story, but if there ARE underlying circumstances why her son didn’t go to school all those times, wouldn’t those be excused absences? The boy spit. At five, he should know better. But a little poking around on Facebook, and the mother has posted several pictures of her and her son flipping the bird. Charming
1.The mother let her child take a beating on the bottom to save her own @$$. She claims that she couldn’t do anything to stop it… Maybe because she was too busy taking a video for her to upload. Did you see those two women with the boy? Have you seen the mother? I think she could take them both on if she had truly cared. This was NOT a mother in Momma Bear mode; this was a woman with priorities bigger than protecting her son. Would I go to jail if it meant I was taking one for the team instead of letting my child be traumatized? You betcha. In an instant.
It will be interesting to see if the media follows up on this train wreck of a news story. But most likely, it will be a blip on the screen and be quickly forgotten among all the rest of the dysfunction out there in the world.
Make it your #153Promise to be a parent of fame; not shame.
I update my students from time to time about the progress of #153Promise. Yesterday, I told them that the silicone bracelets came in. They asked how much they will cost. When I said that I hoped to get $5.oo, they thought that was a bit steep; they suggested no more than 3. I explained that they cost about a dollar to make, and that it’s not about how much the item is worth; it’s more of a “Thank you” gift with a donation to a cause. Then came the question:
“So, what are you going to do with the money?”
One thing for sure- NOT go on a trip or pay my personal bills! I explained that I plan to reinvest the income back into the nonprofit.
“Yeah… but what are you going to DO with the money?”
They clearly didn’t understand; they were hoping to hear something like, “Donate it to XXX cause or charity.” But I AM the charity! Still, I felt like I needed to supply them with some clear-cut verbs…
I can’t blame them for not grasping the concept of needing to make money upfront. In order to do anything to begin to accomplish the mission of #153Promise, it’s going to take a lot of cash.I mean, why SHOULD they know??? Only over this past week did I begin to gain an understanding for myself just how expensive starting up a nonprofit can be. So far, this is what I learned:
If I want to be at an event, I have to pay money for the spot. $50.00 for a 10’x10′ is enough to make me think twice about getting the exposure I need. I should sell almost 20 books at an event just to break EVEN.
Some events require proof of liability insurance. That’s up to $700.00 a year- just to be covered in case somebody claims my setup injured them.
You can have the best idea in the world, but if nobody knows about it, it dies. That means, you have to promote. That costs money, too. We’ve spent money on tee-shirts, car magnets, bracelets, and business cards. Adding all that up, it’s over $500.00.
Here’s the big sticker shock… In order to become a nonprofit, filing fees cost over $1,500.00! Plus, if you hire a lawyer to do it to make sure it’s done correctly, you pay another grand.
Well, it opens up a lot of options:
You can take tax write-offs.
You can offer receipts so other people’s donations are tax-deductible.
You can begin the fun adventure of writing grant proposals to get big money.
THEN, once that all happens and I’m free to get down to the nitty-gritty of actually doing the good work I plan to do, THAT takes a lot of time and money, too! Offering programming and writing curriculum to educate families about trauma-free parenting does not fall off trees…
So, as much as I want to become a nonprofit charity, it looks like I can’t afford to right now.
This Catch 22 was not something I had anticipated! Neither was the difficulty in answering the question,
“So, what are you going to do with the money?”
I learned a lot by those students’ inquiry… even though it humbled me a bit.
Make it the #153Proise to be open enough to learn from any situation.
It may sound obvious that school is for learning, but I think we sometimes get caught up in the grades that people lose sight of that fact. Students are so concerned about getting the GRADES that they forget to actually pay attention to concepts that are being taught in class. Where does that come from?
Parents- are you responsible for emphasizing grades over an education? Are you inadvertently stressing your kids out by expecting As over progress? Research shows that anxiety leads to forgetfulness. Chances are, the more you get your kids stressed over school and grades, paradoxically, the less they will learn.
Here are three changes you can make to help your students stress less and enjoy school more.
3. Stop checking grades so often. If you are the type of parent who signs up to get notifications every time a teacher enters a new grade, stop that service. Remember my posts about kids and cell phones? The same holds true for you. Do not check your phone every day for updates on your kids’ grades. Otherwise, they will be doing the same thing so you don’t know their grades before they do. Instead, every other week should be enough. That’s about 4 times a marking period. And only do that so you’re not twisting in the wind. Don’t pounce on them for an 82. Life will go on and when you are a grand parent one day, you will not remember that 82 in Math. But you will benefit from the supportive (not stressful!) relationship you cultivated with your child.
2. Stop asking about how they did in school. I have VERY bad memories of the dinner table with my family when I was a kid- mainly, because they would use that time as a debriefing on the status of my upcoming report card. That’s probably the reason I had developed gastritis as a teenager. Instead, say to them, “Tell me three things you learned in school today.” At first, they may say, “Nothing.” But if you help them by asking them, “Well, what about science? What are you learning about? Animals? The weather…” they will start to open up. It may take some time, but if they see that this new change is NOT going to go away, they may start to give you answers faster- if only to get it over with! Reward them with what YOU learned that day, as well.
1. Stop helping them to study. Yes, that’s right. If you are going over the study guide for tomorrow’s test, you are now becoming the Gestapo and it’s not going to be a fun experience. Instead, come to them when the stakes are NOT high- like when they are reading a chapter of the novel for English, or doing a current events article in History. Actually show an interest in what they thing about the subject. That way, they will see that you really care about them and what they think about the world- not just a number at the top of a paper.
Make the #153Promise to remind your children that they mean more to you than a GPA.
It’s 7. You can’t get them out of bed. They say they are sick.
Here’s a Parent Proof Plan on how to decide whether or not your child is legitimately sick, or just has “Testitis,” a sudden case of dread due to an exam.
Take their temperature… with you present. We’ve all seen Ferris Buler’s Day Off. You can put a thermometer on a light bulb. CFLs? You can rub it on sheets to make the heat from the friction raise the temperature. How do I know? I got the T-shirt.
Ask to smell their breath if they said they puked. Gross, yes. But if you didn’t actually hear the heaves and/or they didn’t tell you ahead of time that they were going to throw up, I’d be suspect. It’s not a fun time (remember college?), and they usually would call for you before. So if they claim they hurled but they conveniently already finished and flushed, ask to get a whiff.
Remind them that sleep deprivation is NOT an illness. Yanking them out of bed when they are just too tired may be the repercussion they need to inspire them to get to bed earlier next time. Allowing them to snooze for an hour only enables them to stay up later in the future.
Tell them that if they can’t go to school, all other activities are cancelled until further notice. No practice. No play dates. No video games. Once they realize they’ll be under house arrest, they may feel cured in five minutes.
Tell them that you are going to email all their teachers and will have them do a work-from-home session. When they hear of this plan for their sick day, they may realize that it’ll be more hassle to stay home than to just buck up and make it in to pledge allegiance to their education.
The last hour of the Stress Workshop I attended was supposed to be a Q and A about how to best address stress with you children once it rears its ugly head. I was looking forward to learning some tips and maybe even some proactive strategies. It didn’t happen.
Instead, these were some of the questions that parents asked:
How can I get my kid to hand in her homework?
Why won’t my kid do his homework?
How can I get my kids to listen to me?
Why won’t my kid do his chores?
You see the pattern? These weren’t actual open ended questions about how to HELP their kids; these were actually complaints disguised as questions.